58 23 * * * curl -u CELL:PASS http://api.foursquare.com/v1/checkin.json -d vid=VENUE
My point was that you don't need to do as much to get results. Also, I'd been doing this since last fall IIRC. Those at foursquare didn't catch it or don't care.
I also think there are some interesting things cheating bring out in any open platform. Either foursquare enforces rules about checking in with data they validate, or they allow input from an API by third parties. They can't really prevent cheating and keep the platform open. I can certainly get around any filters put in place to detect these things.
Foursquare is a game to be played with yourself and with your friends, and was designed to encourage you to get out and explore your city, helping you discover new and interesting things about the world around you. Sure, you can cheat, but that's kind of like stealing Monopoly money from the bank in a game with your friends. You'll "win", but you're totally missing the point. We'll try our best to detect cheating and not reward that kind of behavior, but we're not going to get draconian about it. Ultimately, if you want to lie to your friends, that's your problem.
Getting businesses to give rewards to foursquare users was NOT a use case that was contemplated when the original game mechanic was built. But business owners were so excited about the engagement that foursquare users had with their business, that "mayor specials" started popping up organically. The demand for this kind of functionality was so great that it was built into the product, but it was not something that was there (or even contemplated) originally. Recognizing mayors was an obvious way to add rewards onto the existing game mechanic, but there are flaws with this approach. First, it doesn't scale very well, as there is only one mayor per venue. This isn't very useful for large retailers who have many customers. And it's also not great for users because as foursquare gets more popular then mayorships get more competitive and more difficult to retain. Second, as the original poster notes, there's much more incentive to cheat if there are real rewards being offered.
But "mayor specials" aren't the only way for businesses to reward their foursquare customers. Retailers like Gap, American Eagle, Steve Madden, and f.y.e. are offering discounts to anyone who checks in. Jimmy Choo ran a "Catch a Choo" campaign in London, where a pair of shoes were running around London checking in to places, and if you "caught" them when they checked in you got a free pair of shoes. Gogo is offering a badge if you check in using their in-flight wifi on any number of flights. Restaurants like Kona Grill and AJ Bombers have hosted "Swarm Parties" (you get a "Swarm" badge on foursquare if >50 people are checked in at the same venue at a time) with special menus and prices to attract customers and get them to unlock a badge together. Another restaurant, B&O American Brasserie, offers discounts for checking in and bringing friends with you (the more friends, the bigger the discount). All of these are by definition rewards that you can only benefit from if you are where you say you are.
It's early days in the space, and there are still a lot of issues that no one has figured out yet, but people who dismiss foursquare because of how easy it is to "cheat" are kind of missing the point.
I do have a small question: do you have any idea how much time and resources are spent on these kinds of deals? I.e., how much emphasis is Foursquare putting on vendor deals, compared with other forms of monetization and user attraction?
"Eventually I amassed a huge number of mayorships, spread among multiple accounts, including the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, the Lincoln Memorial, Stonehenge and the Taj Mahal"
So basically I would hate it if they enforced stricter checkins, unless they could find a way to let bars, restaurants, etc. verify checkins through a quick scanner or something.
That's why I use it. Are you happy with that? How do you use it? Or if you don't use it, how do you think people are supposed to use it?
Also I'd question how many people use Foursquare to meet up with friends. Are you saying that friends meet up at locations not because they set it up via email or Facebook or Twitter beforehand, but because they were in a location randomly and saw a friend in a nearby location? What if they weren't invited?
I don't think you really understand how Foursquare is actually used.
When we don't have the resources to do absolutely everything perfectly, how do we decide what to spend our time on, to what standard - and what to let slide?
Still, it could be relevant:
It's not quite clear to me what Foursquare's business model is, but if location owners are handing over cash in return for checkins (i.e. new customers or increased repeat business) either indirectly or directly, then as such a customer of Foursquare you'd probably want the system to be less easily gamed - which is the reason I was surprised.
EDIT: the comment by a Foursquare employee blows that theory out of the water - the locations aren't paying them as far as I can tell, and are providing incentives for users on their own accord.